I have a good relationship with my dentist here in Auburn, but I need to get implants done and they’re way out of my price range. I initially tried saving up to have them done here but something always came up and I never got anywhere close to having my portion after nearly two years of trying. I have a sister who lives in Texas near the border and she’s gone a couple times and says most there are accredited by the American Dental Association and that it’s the same as having it done here because of it.
I tried to approach the subject gently with my dentist the last time I was in and he told me that he wouldn’t continue to treat me if I went. He said that it’s not safe and, if he continues to treat me and there’s an issue, he could be held liable for the Mexican dentist’s shoddy work. I’m heartbroken. I understand what he’s saying and respect his concerns. At the same time, I would have loved for him to do the work. I really would have. I just can’t afford to have him do it. And, I would never in a million years go after him if something didn’t go right in Mexico. In a way, I feel betrayed. He’s making me choose between having a full set of teeth and staying with him as a patient. Can he even do that?
So sorry to hear you’re dealing with all this. The short answer is, “maybe.” The full answer is complicated. Let’s take a look.
Exercise Caution if You Seek Treatment Outside the United States
There is nothing that’s “the same” as visiting a dentist in Mexico versus one in the United States other than both are dentists and both will provide similar types of treatment. When you talk about the licensing, the continuing education requirements, and the recourse if something goes wrong, it’s night and day. That’s not to say there aren’t good dentists in Mexico, but they simply do not have the same requirements as they do here. And, if you do wind up with a dental emergency, you’re a day’s drive away from your provider and have little recourse if he or she doesn’t do right by you.
Dentists Can Dismiss Anyone from Their Practices
A dentist doesn’t really have an obligation to keep you as a patient in the long run. You can be dismissed from a practice for virtually any reason. The only general caveat to this is that there are generally guidelines about the dismissal process that involve providing care for a period of time while you become established with a new dentist.
It May Be “Unethical” for Him to Dismiss You for This
Dismissing a patient for seeking treatment in Mexico is a bit different, though. The ADA addresses it in terms of a patient’s freedom of choice.
“The ethical dentist will treat the patient who has received dental treatment outside the United States in the same manner as he/she would treat a patient who has transferred their care from any other practice, irrespective of the fact that the treatment performed outside of the United States might or might not be substandard and, in some instances, a possible detriment to the patient’s health. A dentist should consult applicable state law to determine the definition of “patient of record.” Failure to treat such a patient may raise ethical concerns under ADA Code Section 2.F, Patient Abandonment.”
So, what we can ascertain is that your dentist could find himself in hot water with the local dental board if he dismisses you, even though his concerns about you receiving poor quality treatment are valid. In the same narrative, the ADA reminds dentists to keep good records, so it’s easier to identify the root cause of any issues if multiple providers are involved.
The Final Decision is Yours Alone
At the end of the day, you’d have to report the dentist to the board and they’d ultimately decide whether he behaved unethically or not. They may indeed agree he’s out of line in this case. But, whatever the board might decide, you feel betrayed by your dentist and seem to have lost faith in him. For that reason alone, it sounds like your needs are better served by a dentist who will honor your wishes. As an aside to this, it might be worth checking out other local dentists to see if someone here can still help you. True, you won’t get the same prices as you would in Mexico, but you can be assured the dentist treating you will be held to a higher standard of care. You may be able to find an affordable dentist who offers payment plans or similar as well. Best of luck to you.
This blog is sponsored by Dr. Raymond Bolt, an Auburn, Alabama dentist who provides affordable and comprehensive care.